The Way Forward
This is the report of the two-day meeting of the officers and executive committee of the United Methodist Council of Bishops on July 18-20.
We take our calling very seriously, knowing where our boundaries are, as bishops, but also what the church has asked us to do; and so we ask for prayer and help. I have been asked to serve as one of three moderators of the Bishop’s Commission on A Way Forward, the General Conference’s response to our present impasse around matters of unity and human sexuality. This is a role that I did not seek and is work that I will do alongside my first priority, which is serving as your residential bishop. I know that the only breakthrough, beyond the present impasse, will be the guidance of the Holy Spirit and thousands or even hundreds of thousands of United Methodists entrusting our future to God, who is faithful.
There has been much reflection on the grouping of the annual conference non-compliance actions, the episcopal election in the western jurisdiction and the initial meeting of a covenant network of clergy and congregations. The intention of the communication is simply to describe developments in the shifting United Methodist landscape since General Conference as a rationale for more attention and prompt responsiveness by the Council of Bishops to our task. These are clearly different developments, from distinct areas of the church, and yet they are related to each other as actions and reactions to our present polity as it is interpreted and lived across the church.
I receive communication with a vast diversity of assumptions about our church. Much of this communication does not describe the church that I know and love, even in its (our) imperfection. I encourage our people, as we reflect on the work ahead, to ask ourselves, as we communicate in our churches and in social media: “Does this accurately reflect the image of God in my brother or sister?” “Will this build up the body of Christ, the church?” And “Will this glorify God?” And my additional hope is that we do not become distracted from our mission: “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
In gratitude for you and our life together in Jesus Christ, our judge and our hope,
Resident Bishop, Florida Area
United Methodist Church
Council executive committee affirms unity, moves forward
United Methodist Council of Bishops
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 25, 2016
Nashville, Tenn.--Meeting in Chicago last week, the Council of Bishops' Executive Committee approved a framework for implementing the Commission on a Way Forward and took a step toward a called session of the General Conference in 2018.
The Council acknowledged that the landscape of the church has changed dramatically since the General Conference approved the Council's proposal in May, but re-affirmed their commitment to lead the church forward.
"The reported declarations of non-compliance from several annual conferences, the intention to convene a Wesleyan Covenant Association and the election of the Rev. Karen Oliveto as a bishop of the church have opened deep wounds and fissures within The United Methodist Church and fanned fears of schism," said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Council president, in a detailed statement outlining the actions taken. "The church finds itself in an extremely fragile, highly contested season."
The statement further reads, "We affirm that, as disciples of Jesus, we are all called to maintain unity in the bond of peace. As a Council, we re-affirm our commitment to lead the church in discerning and charting a way forward. We intend to do so with prayerful attention to both urgency and thoughtful preparation."
The Council adopted a purpose statement for the Commission, including its mission, vision and scope, and determined that it will be composed of 20-25 members to be identified by August 31 with a target of October for an initial meeting. Each bishop will nominate up to five persons, and names that have previously been submitted to either the president or executive secretary of the Council will be considered as well.
A search is already underway for a professional facilitator to design and guide the Commission’s discernment process. Bishops Ken Carter, Sandra Steiner Ball and David Yemba have been selected to serve as a team of moderators to preside, provide spiritual guidance and pastoral care. Updates on the Commission's actions will be provided through regular press releases every 4-6 weeks.
An invitation to prayer for the Commission involving the entire church, called "Praying Our Way Forward," will be launched in October. More details regarding that initiative will be forthcoming.
The Executive Committee will bring the matter of a called special session to the full Council for consideration in November. Only the full Council could authorize such a session.
In a related action, the Council further voted to urge the Judicial Council to include the South Central Jurisdictional Conference's request regarding the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto on the docket for their fall meeting on October 25-28.
For additional, more detailed information, read the full statement.